Legislative and Regulatory Update
January 2020 by Scott Harn
• PLF files petition with US Supreme Court on behalf of Oregon miners
As we reported last month, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) agreed to assist mining attorney James Buchal and miners in Oregon with a petition to the US Supreme Court regarding the “no addition” argument for suction dredging.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality claimed suction gold dredgers are required to obtain a Section 402 EPA permit as a polluter, but the Clean Water Act clearly states there must be the addition of a pollutant to trigger the need for such a permit.
In Eastern Oregon Mining Association v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Supreme court (in a 6-1 decision) ruled that the mere movement of material already within a navigable waterway was deemed to be an addition. The US Supreme Court petition from PLF seeks to fix this error. It has now been completed and submitted to the US Supreme Court for consideration.
A few select quotes from the US Supreme Court petition:
...For today’s suction dredge miners the principal threat comes from heavy-handed government.
...The Court should resolve the conflict between...courts...that have adopted the “mere movement” rule...holding that the mere movement of pre-existing pollutants within a regulated water does not trigger the Clean Water Act’s permitting requirement.”
...This Court should reinforce the textual boundaries of the Clean Water Act to arrest the Act’s continued deformation into an overbearing federal land-use statute.
The arguments are well-written, clear and concise, and backed by significant case precedence. This seems to be the strongest US Supreme Court petition we’ve seen to date to get the clarification necessary and get suction gold dredgers back to work.
• Land and Water Conservation Fund abuse by Forest Service
A review by the Government Accountability Office found the US Forest Service ignored federal restrictions to acquire many thousands of acres of new federal lands.
The federal Land and Water Conservation fund includes provisions that limit the amount of land the Forest Service can acquire in Western States to “not more than 15 percent” of purchases. However, the GAO report found the Forest Service added 124,000 acres—with 76% of those lands out
west—from 2014 through 2018.
Though Senator Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called for greater oversight to avoid this problem in the future, she failed to call upon the agency to dispose of lands that were above the legal threshold.
• Army asks for REE proposals
The US Army announced plans to fund the construction of rare earth processing facilities. It’s the first time taxpayer funds will be used for the production of rare earths since the Manhattan Project, which was undertaken to create the first atomic bomb during WWII.
The stated goal is to reduce the reliance on China for rare earth minerals essential for advanced weapons and technology.
The Army announcement asked for proposals for a pilot plant and agreed to cover up to two-thirds of the cost of a new processing facility.
• Lawsuits galore
• Suction dredging saga continues
• HR 1937 to streamline permitting, remove obstacles to miners
• Sage-grouse debate continues
• More National Monuments
On November 30, 2015, the Galice Mining District (with the support of the Waldo Mining District), along with several Oregon mining associations and individuals, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against the State of Oregon and SB 838...
You have made your presence known with the BLM or Forest Service, placed Mining District signs along the entrance points to your district, and found support with other local miners. But how do you gain popular support?
In other words, just like those that move next to an airport and then complain about the noise, Mr. Riskedahl deliberately went out of his way to “witness and document the effects of suction dredge mining,” and when he found some, he was annoyed by it!
Is there any hope for a solution? Yes, there is, and we’ve been working with Public Lands for the People, the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council, attorney James Buchal and others on that solution.
Like all federal judges, he swore an oath to perform his duties “impartially… under the Constitution and laws of the U.S.” Nothing in those documents gives Judge Morris authority to order the BLM to work with non-government organizations (the same ones that filed the lawsuit in question) to alter America’s use of energy.
• Idaho continues toward elimination of EPA suction dredging regulations
• EPA makes preemptive strike against Alaska mine
• Proposed Mines Act permit fees
The Bawl Mill • Ask The Experts - How do I separate gold from broken glass? • Ask The Experts - Can I get some tips on filing a mining claim? • Ask The Experts - Metal detector discrimination can be beneficial • Ask The Experts - Can I crush ore on my BLM claim and still be a small miner? • Gold In The Midwest—Part II: Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio • 21st Century American Gold Rush: Rare Earth Elements • Exceptions to the Rules: Re-Thinking Prospecting Rules of Thumb • Prospecting The East Fork San Gabriel Canyon, Southern California • Hit the Slopes to Find More Gold • Sixteen to One Gold Mine: Unique Challenges and Potential Rewards - Pt I • What About Palladium? • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices